Plesiosaur vertebrae from Black Venn

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Anna Gill (UK)

This plesiosaur vertebra column with ribs was found in the early summer, on the Black Venn between Charmouth and Lyme Regis in Dorset, in the UK in 2004. It had been raining for a number of days and parts of the cliffs had turned to liquid mud. My husband, Tony, had been out daily checking the cliffs and had not found that much. The cliffs had begun to dry out and it was possible to walk very carefully over the mud crust, when he spotted some bone protruding from the cliff face.

Tony firstly contacted the National Trust to obtain permission to remove the nodule from the cliff. All fossils that are extracted from the cliffs have to have the permission of the landowner, in this case the National Trust, before they can be removed. To get more information above this code of practice, contact

Fig. 1. The magnificently prepared plesiosaur vertebra column with ribs.

The nodule was then extracted from the site, but unfortunately no other remains could be found with it. This is quite common with plesiosaurs and is one of the more frustrating aspects of the job of fossil collecting.

In his workshop in Lyme Regis, David Costian set about the lengthy task of cleaning the bones. The nodule was placed in a bath of acetic acid and removed on a daily basis, to be washed and then dried. The newly exposed bone was sealed with a varnish to stop the acid from eating away at the bone and destroying the fossil. Then, the fossil was returned to the tank and the process repeated until completed. It took a total of six weeks to complete and then the bone was mounted, and put on show in Tony’s shop, Charmouth Fossils.

Fig. 2. Another view of the specimen.

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